Thursday, April 26, 2007

"Neurotheology" Enters Popular Culture

Over the weekend I attended a series of Vajrayana Buddhist teachings. Afterwards, I offered the comment that Vajrayana seems to combine with the spiritual culture in which it arises. My sample size consisted of the only two major schools of Vajrayana left in the world - Tibetan Buddhism, in which Vajrayana incorporated elements from the native Bon religion, and Japanese Shingon Buddhism, which incorporated elements of Shinto.

In the Western world it appears such a process is going on right now as Vajrayana becomes a more popular spiritual path. Mainstream Christianity positions itself as incompatible with Buddhism due to the univalent theology of montheism, so Vajrayana is combining with another belief system common in the industrialized world - scientism, the belief that the world can be comprehended through the application of the scientific method. The Dalai Lama even appeared at a recent neuroscience conference and discussed meditation with the assembled researchers.

This synthesis has a new, catchy name: "Neurotheology." Two articles from Slate discuss the rise of this worldview and how it applies a scientific understanding of the brain to spiritual states of consciousness.

God is in the Dendrites: Can "neurotheology" bridge the gap between religion and science?

Spirit Tech: How to wire your brain for religious ecstasy.

This all sure sounds like "the method of science, the aim of religion" to me! Clearly Aleister Crowley was ahead of his time, but then he always knew that he was.

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